Tomorrow is Guy Fawkes Day, also know as Bonfire Night. The day actually celebrates the foiled plot to blow up the British Parliament in 1605. Its history begins with the events of 5 November 1605, when Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords. Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London, and months later the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot’s failure. On the very night that the Gunpowder Plot was foiled, on November 5th, 1605, bonfires were set alight to celebrate the safety of the King. Since then, November 5th has become known as Bonfire Night. The event is commemorated every year with fireworks and burning effigies of Guy Fawkes on a bonfire.
The day has now morphed into something different. The mask that was worn by the guy who shared the screen with a shorn Natalie Portman in the 2006 movie, “V for Vendetta”, has become a symbol of Occupy Wall Street protesters, Anonymous hactivists and chief WikiLeaker Julian Assange. Now, ironically, the fires and the mask are symbols of standing up to the oppressors, be it the government or the 1% who keeps the 99% downtrodden.
Even today in Britain, most wonder if they are celebrating Fawkes’ execution or honoring his attempt to do away with the government.